WASHINGTON (JTA) — Georgia became the sixth state to pass a law targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and the fifth to include settlements as protected from boycott.
The bill was approved March 24 by the State Senate in a 41-8 vote. Two days earlier, the Georgia House of Representatives passed the measure in a 95-71 vote.
Lawmakers from both parties supported the bill, which is expected to be signed into law soon by the Republican governor, Nathan Deal. Opponents were predominantly Democrats, although several House Republicans also joined in opposition.
Under the measure, the government is forbidden from contracting with individuals or companies that fail to certify for the pact’s duration that they are not boycotting Israel or businesses in Israeli-controlled territories.
“The State of Georgia is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friend and key trading partner Israel,” State Sen. Judson Hill, a Republican who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement released by the Israel Allies Foundation, a pro-Israel group that works with legislatures to advance pro-Israel legislation.
“We are also pleased to join our neighboring states of South Carolina and Florida, along with other states all around America, in taking a stand against the anti-Semitism and discrimination of the BDS movement,” he said.
The Israel Project, which also lobbied for the bill, praised its passage.
“Georgians don’t want their state supporting the anti-Semitic BDS efforts, and that’s why the legislature voted to prevent this insidious movement from gaining a foothold here,” said its Midwest Regional director, Jacob Millner.
States that have passed anti-BDS legislation over the last year include Georgia, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, Indiana and Arizona. Indiana’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, signed his state’s legislation last week. All but South Carolina explicitly extend the anti-boycott protections to Israeli settlements.
Similar bills, some protecting settlements and others not, are under consideration in another dozen or so states, as well as in the U.S. Congress. Additionally, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Maryland in recent years have passed nonbinding resolutions opposing Israel boycotts.
The issue of whether such bills should extend anti-boycott protections to settlements has stirred controversy. Defenders of bills that protect settlements say boycotts that target settlements are another means of unfairly penalizing Israel, while those who oppose such protections say they represent a backdoor recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.